The Food Revolution 2.0

Brooklyn Window Farm

Today I had one of those days where the stars aligned. It just so happened that those stars were food and technology.

I checked my Facebook page today and found that a friend had invited me to “like” the group Brooklyn Homesteader, an information sharing online resource about urban agriculture recently started by hobbyist farmer Megan Paska from Greenpoint. Usually I ignore these sorts of messages, but being an urban ag enthusiast, I had to accept.

Later, I received an email from the Comfood listserv (sponsored by the Community Food Security Coalition and administered through the Tufts School of Nutrition Science and Policy) that included a link to the blog food + tech connect, about food and technology. It includes an interesting post about the importance open data in agriculture.

This all got me thinking about the role of technology, specifically digital media, in food production. Over the past century, with urbanization and the mechanization of agriculture, the share of Americans making their living from farming has dwindled from 90% in the late 1800s to around 2% today. With it, has gone much of the cultural knowledge about how to grow food.

Agriculture in the U.S. faces many challenges, most of which can’t be solved by digital media (or at least digital media alone). Yet, one of the things that dawned on me as I mulled over these various online farming resources is just how much of a contribution digital media can make in preserving institutional agricultural memory. Sites such as Brooklyn Homesteader are popping up across the web to assist everyone from hardcore gardeners to urban residents curious about how to grow their first tomato. Others go further by offering bricks-and-mortar opportunities for people to get their hands into the dirt. For instance, type “farm internships” into your search bar and pages upon pages of options come up.

This online urban agriculture movement is distinct because of the power of information sharing over the web. Hobby farmers in New York can swap ideas with beekeepers in Vancouver or food security activists in Detroit. Meanwhile, anyone with access to an internet connection anywhere in the world can learn from their experiences, as well as tell their own stories. While urban farms and community gardens in New York will never look like those in California, the ability of farmers across the country and the globe to instantaneously share their experiences is truly revolutionary.



Comments (2)


  1. haven putnam says:

    Hi Alex :
    As a senior citizen who is trying to wrap his head around the use of ” social media ” to create social change, IE: smart grid living , i found your insights extremely enlightening !
    This brave new world you live in ” blogging ” Facebook , etc , really made little no no sense to me , how to connect the dots etc , for some reason just doesn’t compute !
    I live in San Diego Ca started a project called the hybrid house
    Any insights you have on how to integrate this into your world would be greatly appreciated !
    haven putnam

  2. Alex Hanson says:

    Thanks Haven. It looks like you are on the right track with your website. There are a whole bunch of resources out there that look specifically at technology and social change. I just wrote a piece on Rachel Botsman who coauthored a book called What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. You might start there. Just doing a search on “technology and social change” will yield tons of results.

    While I’m no expert in the subject, I fully believe that the potential for technology to form real, lasting social connections is being realized as we speak. It is great to see that organizations such as yours are participating in this movement.

Leave a Reply